Flight delays are an unfortunate, though often unavoidable, downside of jetting away to your favourite holiday destination and enjoying a break abroad somewhere sunny. But are you aware of your rights to compensation when it comes to late or cancelled trips in the air?
Strict EU laws mean you could be entitled to a monetary allowance or alternative transport and accommodation, so read on to discover if and how you can make a claim.
Passengers are entitled to compensation under EU law when flights are cancelled or delayed by more than three hours, though this can depend on how severe the inconvenience is and what the cause was. Airlines should provide food, drink and accommodation if a flight is delayed and must offer a refund or alternative flight if a cancellation is made.
However, if delays or cancellations are caused by factors out of an airline’s control (known as exceptional circumstances), you would not be entitled to any compensation.
You should contact your airline directly if you feel you have a right to compensation and follow their individual claims protocol, this usually begins by filling out a standard claim form. However if a standard procedure isn’t apparent, you should enquire with your airline about the best way to go forward, including as much information and evidence as possible.
It can take some time for claims to process, particularly if the severity impacted a lot of passengers. If your claim is declined, the airline should explain why and in the event that you are still unhappy with the outcome, get in touch with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who can advise the next best course of action.
Cancelled or delayed flights by more than three hours often entitle passengers to between £110-£550 in compensation – depending on the length of the delay and the distance travelled. Compensation is also calculated per person, not per family or per booking, but note that any monetary allowance will be in euros.
Crucially, delays are calculated by how late your flight arrives, not how late it departed, and your arrival time is officially when at least one of the plane’s doors have opened, not when it touches the tarmac.
Your flight must depart from or arrive at an EU airport and be operated by an EU airline to claim compensation if a cancellation or delay caused you to miss a connection. Note however that you are only eligible for compensation if you have booked a through ticket i.e. you have a single ticket and one reservation for the entire journey and didn’t book two flights separately.
The cause for missing a connection must also be deemed within the airline’s control and not due to exceptional circumstances.
Double bookings, system errors or a lack of available seats can mean some passengers are downgraded, from a first class to business class seat for example. EU laws again cover this and the airline must reimburse you within seven days, the amount calculated as a percentage of what you paid and depends on the length of your flight.
Generally speaking, the older the claim the smaller the chance you have of being successful and it is believed any airlines will outright refuse a claim if it applies to cancellations or delays stretching back longer than six years.
The reason being that in all regions of the UK, you can only go back six years if you need to visit court to fight for the cash, excluding Scotland where it’s five years.
If your delay or cancellation doesn’t concern an EU-regulated flight (flying either from or to an EU airport on an EU airline) you can’t make a claim under EU rules. However as most airlines base their guidelines on those outlined by the International Air Transport Association, they should still be contractually obliged to offer an alternative flight, other form of transport or a refund.
You should check to see if a similar compensation scheme to those outlined in EU law exists or if you are covered by your travel insurance. Some policies may compensate for your inconvenience or simply refund any extra money spent on food, hotels and alternative transport for example.
Don’t necessarily just give up if you feel you have a legitimate claim. You could raise the issue with the relevant regulator or ombudsman, dependent on which airline you travelled with and where you were flying from and to. It usually won’t cost anything to take your claim further, however some airlines do charge a £25 fee should your appeal be deemed unsuccessful.
Have you ever had to claim for compensation after a flight delay or cancellation?